As a son of the shire, I have spend many a day and night in the streets, snickers, and alleys of York. It is an old city, it was old before the Vikings got there, it was old before the romans set the first walls around it, it has old bones aplenty, both figuratively and actually.
There’s a pub, by the riverside, where they say some nights you can see the brush topped helmets of roman legionaries cross the bar floor, the ghosts of long dead soldiers marching on a road five feet below… I’ve sat in that pub, and drank dark ale, and yet I have never seen them myself, but I’ve met plenty who would swear to you they have, or something like it.
York has always been a city of ghosts. Old bones, as I say…
So, York is a perfect setting for a novel about a guardian who protects the city from the worst the supernatural world has to offer…
Of course, it not as simple as that, having the perfect setting doesn’t mean anything unless you can bring that setting alive, give it breath, and the feel of the city and those old bones beneath your feet. Sawyer does that. He does that even if you have never walked those streets yourself, crossed its bridges, wondered down the shambles or walked it’s ancient walls. It feels like York, the great Northern capital, the original second city. A city with old bones.
But Sawyer also does more. He has a cast of characters that you will both love and fear for, and indeed just fear. The title character, Holly, is a joyous invention. Mysterious, strange, awkward, mad and fascinating. I could not help but be put in mind of Matt Smiths Doctor Who, but that’s a bit of a disservice, Holly is a singular invention in her own right, but she has that mad infectious otherness about her that characterised Matt Smiths iteration of the infamous time lord.
The main character Mira is drawn into Holly’s world, the supernatural underbelly of York, because when a mad woman saves your life and draws you into the madness, you can run and hide, or you can run with her… Mira choses the latter.
Mira is as much a joyous invention as Holly, as are all the characters in the novel. There is a richness to them, in the same way as there is a richness to the old bones of York. There are layers to everything, the plot is deeper than it first appears. Deeper and darker, there are more twists and turns than the old streets of York itself. There are insidious and sinister ghost and other things lurking everywhere, there is also humour, quirks, and joy.
The other characters all have life and energy of there own, be they human or more than human, or what if left after the human departs this world…
All of this is wonderfully realised, masterfully written, atmospheric, and just a plain joy to read.
It leaves you wanting more, luckily, there are still plenty of old bones in Sawyers York, And the Sleeper will wake again soon I am sure… Frankly, I am looking forward to it.